The Fall Line



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Georgia Physical Features Overview

The Fall Line

The Coastal Plain Region is separated from the Piedmont Plateau by a natural boundary known as the Fall Line. The Fall Line is the point at which hilly or mountainous lands meet the coastal plain. This line runs from Columbus on the western side of the state, through Macon and into Augusta on the eastern side. Other cities located on the Fall Line are Milledgeville, Roberta, Thomson, and Warrenton. Rivers and creeks flowing from the rocky hill country cut deep channels in the softer soil of the plains. This drops the elevation and creates waterfalls.

As early settlers began to leave the coastal regions and explore inland, many were forced to stop at the Fall Line because they could not travel over the steep and rushing falls. These early settlers, as well as Indians and traders, found the waterfalls an excellent power source and built settlements there.
Okefenokee Swamp
One of the major features of the Outer Coastal Plain is the 681-square-mile Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee, the largest swamp in North America, is a freshwater wetland. Once part of the Atlantic Ocean floor, the Okefenokee received its name from the Indian word o-qa-qua-phenoga, which means “land of the trembling earth”. The Okefenokee is filled with a shallow “black water” stained by the tannic acid of decaying vegetation. The swamp covers a half million acres (about seven hundred square miles) and is located in the Outer Coastal Plain near Waycross and Folkston. This primitive wetland is home to hundreds of species of plants, animals, and reptiles, many of whom are endangered. Throughout the area are about seventy “piney woods” islands, once home to Seminole Indians and settled by pioneer Georgians in the 1850s.

If you visit, you will enter a world of giant, 80-foot cypress trees draped with moss overhanging dark, murky waters filled with alligators, herons, egrets, and cranes. The swamp is also home to Georgia’s native black bears—and the comic strip character “Pogo”.


Appalachian Mountains
Georgia’s three northern regions are all part of the Appalachian Mountains. The story of the Appalachians began over 900 million years ago when the continents collided and created one giant continent. This collision also created the Appalachians. Over millions of years, the continents split apart and slowly moved away from each other. The first Appalachian Mountains eroded into what later became the Atlantic Ocean.

About 500 million years ago, the continents once again began to move back together. As the continents moved together, they pushed the sediment form the ocean floor back up and created the second Appalachian Mountains. Once again, the continent collided. The force of the collision caused the Earth’s crust to fold and more mountains to form. Each time the continents collided and formed more mountains, the existing mountains were pushed further west. That is why the Appalachians have several sets of parallel ridges.

About 200 million years ago, the continents began to drift apart again. Over the past 200 million years, the Appalachian Mountains have eroded from their original height. At times ice glaciers covered the mountain chain. The weight of the glaciers pushed down the mountains underneath. The ice carved valleys and pushed the eroded rock sediments as far south as the southeastern corner of the US.
Chattahoochee River
The name of the Chattahoochee comes from the Cherokee and means the “river of the painted rock”. It was so named because of the colorful stones that lay across the riverbed. The river itself flows 436 miles from the mountains of North Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico. Part of the southern section forms the natural border between Georgia and Alabama. The chief cities along its banks include Gainesville, Atlanta, and Columbus. Major manmade lakes, including Lake Lanier, West Point Lake and the Walter F. George Reservoir, are part of the Chattahoochee’s winding path. In addition to supplying water to Atlanta and Columbus, the river is a water source for Helen, Buford, LaGrange, and West Point.
Savannah River
By the time the first European explorers reached the Savannah River in 1540, Indians had traveled the 314-mile-long waterway for many years. They called it the Isondega, meaning “blue water”.

In 1732, King George II granted James Oglethorpe “all those lands, Countries, and Territories” between the Savannah and the Altamaha rivers extending westward “to the South Seas”. And, of course, Oglethorpe’s settlers from the Ann established the first settlement on Yamacraw Bluff overlooking the Savannah River.



Along the border of South Carolina, the river spreads into three lakes: J. Strom Thurmond Lake (formerly called Clark Hill Lake), Lake Russell, and Hartwell Lake. The Savannah is the only river that flows into Georgia from outside its borders. The headwaters of the Savannah River are in South Carolina.
Barrier Islands
The coast is an interlocking chain of marshes, rivers, and tributaries that eventually flow into the Atlantic Ocean. The Spanish explorers called this subtropical region “Islands of Gold”. Along the one-hundred mile shoreline is a group of barrier islands, so called because they protect beaches by blocking much of the wind, sands, and waer that could erode the mainland. Even today, this chain of islands offers much in terms of beauty, recreation, and tourism. Jekyll Island is primarily a state park, and Cumberland Island is a national seashore. Perhaps the greatest legacy of the barrier island group is that two-thirds of the land remains wilderness sanctuaries.


  1. Why have many of Georgia’s cities and industries grown up along the Fall Line?

  1. Railroads were already built there

  2. Rapid flowing rivers were a source of energy

  3. Ships can travel northward from there to the northeast

  4. The land along the Fall Line was fertile and perfect for farming

  1. What two regions are separated by the Fall Line?

  1. Appalachian Plateau and Blue Ridge

  2. Blue Ridge and Piedmont Plateau

  3. Coastal Plain and Blue Ridge

  4. Coastal Plain and Piedmont Plateau

  1. The border between the Georgia Piedmont and the Coastal Plain marks the point at which rivers drop in elevation creating waterfalls. This border is known as the…?

  1. Fall Line

  2. Tallulah Gorge

  3. Savannah River

  4. Okefenokee Swamp

  1. Which statement does NOT describe a reason for locating many of Georgia’s early settlements on the Fall Line?

  1. Waterfalls at the Fall Line provided a power source for water mills and developing industries

  2. The area the Fall Line, with its clear water and lush vegetation, was a picturesque setting for a settlement

  3. The rivers and creeks cut deep channels in the softer soils through which they ran, creating fertile land for farming

  4. Settlers were forced to stop at waterfalls along the Fall Line because of the difficulty of traveling over the steep, rushing water

  1. Which a characteristic of the Okefenokee Swamp?

  1. It is located in the Piedmont region

  2. It has the most precipitation in the state

  3. It is famous for its hydroelectric potential

  4. It is the largest freshwater marsh in Georgia

  1. In which region is the Okefenokee Swamp located?

  1. Blue Ridge

  2. Coastal Plain

  3. Piedmont Plateau

  4. Ridge and Valley

  1. The mountain chain which reaches into northern Georgia is…?

  1. Appalachians

  2. Ozarks

  3. Rockies

  4. Shenandoah

  1. Through which physiographic (geographic) region do the Appalachian Mountains run?

  1. Coastal Plain, Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley

  2. Blue Ridge, Appalachian Plateau, Coastal Plain

  3. Ridge and Valley, Appalachian Plateau, Piedmont

  4. Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley, Appalachian Plateau

  1. What river is the primary source of water for Atlanta?

  1. Altamaha

  2. Chattahoochee

  3. Flint

  4. Savannah

  1. What river has its headwaters in the mountains of north Georgia and form part of the boundary between Georgia and Alabama?

  1. Altamaha

  2. Chattahoochee

  3. Flint

  4. Savannah

  1. The earliest settlement of Georgia by the first English colonists was along which Georgia river?

  1. Altamaha

  2. Chattahoochee

  3. Ocmulgee

  4. Savannah

  1. What is the only river that flows into Georgia from another state?

  1. Chattahoochee

  2. Coosa

  3. Ogeechee

  4. Savannah


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